We reviewed the first book in this series, The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, and liked it so much, we decided to continue. In this book, which was released in February of this year, our main character is…surprise surprise… Etta. It’s about a hundred years later and Etta was born and raised in the same village the Unnamed Midwife eventually lived in until her death. Etta was supposed to be a midwife, but chose to be a raider. When Etta goes out and raids, she becomes Eddy. She binds herself like the Unnamed did, and becomes a male. As the book goes on, we find out that it isn’t just for protection, but because Etta has known she was Eddy since about puberty but didn’t consciously realize it for many reasons.
Instead of simply reviewing the book, we thought it might be fun to do an interview-style blog post about it.
WHAT ARE YOUR OVERALL THOUGHTS ABOUT THE BOOK IN ONE OR TWO PARAGRAPHS?
Shelly: I actually liked this one more than the first book! I couldn’t put it down and basically devoured it in one day. It’s not an easy book to read because of how harsh the world is, but the author somehow makes it fascinating. I definitely wouldn’t want to live in this version of reality, but I love reading about it.
Sam: This took a weird turn at about 75% and I’m not quite sure it works for me. With that being said, I still think the author does a fantastic job creating this dirty and violent, yet somehow supremely interesting, post apocalyptic world. The characters are fascinating as in the way each group has grown their own ideologies in regards to the nature of people and their place in this world.
HOW DID YOU FEEL ABOUT THE WAY THE AUTHOR DEALT WITH THE GENDER AND SEXUALITY THEMES?
Shelly: I thought the author handles the themes quite well. In both books, there are characters who refuse to be defined or put in boxes. There are characters that seem bisexual or gay or transgender, but they still don’t perfectly fit those labels. They just are who they are. It seemed very organic and wasn’t forced at all.
Sam: I think she has an interesting outlook. Women are scarce and highly sought after. Some, like Etta and the Unnamed, begin the the process of becoming more like men for safety reasons. For the Unnamed it was always a safety net. She would look at herself as a man and not know who she was. But Etta…Etta realizes Eddy is who she has always been on the inside. The same is true for some of the men as well. There are those whose greatest wish is to be female specifically because they are so “treasured” and sought after. I thought it was interesting that what scared these women into hiding spurred this longing in others. It raised some interesting questions in my mind. Would these people still feel this way if the virus/plague/whatever hadn’t wiped out the female population? Is this how our species evolves into something other than just male and female? Honestly, I really think Eddy said it best when he said that no one is safe until we are all the same.
WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT ETTA/EDDY?
Shelly: I thought Etta was freaking AWESOME. She is now one of my favorite characters of all time. There’s a lot of girl power going on, but because the character cannot be defined by gender, I’m not sure how to describe it. But she kicked ass, was fascinating, and just a powerhouse in my view.
Sam: Etta/Eddy was so scared and hurt and angry at the world that at times I almost felt that s/he would be an unreliable narrator. But that fear and anger never stopped her from always trying to do what she knew in her heart was right. She wanted to be her own person with her own place in this world. She fought for that for herself and she fought for that for everyone else, even when they didn’t want her to. That’s pretty incredible in my book.
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE BOOK (WITHOUT BEING TOO SPOILERY)?
Shelly: I liked all the scenes with The Lion, and then the Mormons. There are several WTF scenes where you just laugh or sit there with your mouth open.
Sam: I honestly loved the character development. Meg Elison does a wonderful job with that.
ARE YOU EXCITED ABOUT THE THIRD BOOK, AND WHY OR WHY NOT?
Shelly: I am very excited about the third book. Flora is sort of an ambiguous character here and I look forward to getting to know her better. I think she has enough meat to carry a book on her own.
Sam: Yes and no. This book took a weird turn for me towards the end. I’m not going to spoil it for anyone, but I’m still trying to understand why the author went that route. I kinda want to read the next one specifically because I want it to be an “all is not what it seems” revelation.
ANY LAST THOUGHTS?
Shelly: I highly recommend this series to those who like dark, gritty post-apocalyptic books. It’s pretty grim and there is some violence and triggers (like rape, child abuse), but the author doesn’t spend pages and pages going into explicit detail.
Sam: What Shelly said! I loved being in this world, as awful as it is, and have especially loved the people we’ve met along the way.